tv Discussion on Russian Military Intervention in Syria CSPAN December 21, 2015 3:31am-5:04am EST
excluded from american, russian, marion -- american iranian, this process would go nowhere. >> one might hope and think logically there has to be a focus everyone can agree on. i would like to thank everybody. we went a couple minutes over. we will reconvene promptlydible] >> i would like to thank everyone for coming this morning.
as you can see, we havesee, we have a great panel. the importance of the conversation has been heightened. as we speak their negotiations going on in new york following secretary kerry's visit to moscow. with that i turn it over to our 1st speaker. >> thank you. i am flattered to be here, delighted to be invited to atlantic council program and humbled to be among so many deeply experienced and wise co-pay lists. my task was to layout the motives for the russian intervention in syria and then say a little bit something about what it means in terms of the context. in my paper i layout two sets of motives. the circle of three at i consider to be primary or strategic consideration and three less important ancillary motives which may or may not intertwine in
interesting ways. the 1st circle of three, the least ambitious and most obvious russian motive for the intervention in syria, mentioned in the 1st panel is obviously there was an ally in trouble. over the last years but as of last summer as was mentioned in the 1st panel the regime looked to be in real trouble, and the russians don't have a lot of allies. the only days the russians have outside of russian federation territory. it would look that and be that for the russians if they lost the only ally they had in that part of the world. just like the united states intervened many years ago to protect south vietnam from being defeated the russians intervened. the 2nd motive alluded to earlier is that they put
russia and the role of the kingmaker. they are there on the ground tanks and airplanes and other military accoutrement and had become a much larger factor in any percent -- perspective settlement and then what might be done thereafter. the 3rd motive is highly speculative on my part. i have no hard evidence to back this up. it is a logical inference that we need to at least consider. the syrian regime over some four years which is not a very impressive order of battle managed to kill something like a quarter of a million people to create something like 4 million refugees and to create something like seven or eight internally displaced people's. the russians if they wanted to take kill three times as
many people the.is to put a good deal of pressure on the european union. aa great deal of difficulty coping with 800,000 refugees imagine what it would do if they had to deal with three or 4 million. i have no evidence that the russian government was deliberately trying to exacerbate and pushed to the right european politics, but i would not put it past him. the three strategic rationales. i also see the dolls nested inside of one another. the 1st is to create a rubble heap so that they can get closer to moscow in the 2nd would be to suborn.
the 3rd goal would be to send little green men into a baltic state and watch what would happen. it is possible in theory king previously harm nato than the asylum refugees in syria command is possible to put a great deal of pressure i grant the union. have already seen the italians a little wobbly against russia on the count of ukraine. these motives are not
unreasonable. the three ancillary motives one of which has been mentioned a lot, his desire as a matter of course in the course as was mentioned, a lot of domestic political residents and i don't think we should underestimate the domestic political motivations for a lot of what the russian government has done over the past several years. you can track what the russians do a broad the difficulties that are perceived in the domestic realm. but there are two other motives. i mentioned ukraine. if people's minds off of eastern europe and ukraine and this is worked wonderfully. after the speech is that president obama and president putin gave you
will recall the french and italian delegates risk -- wished the russians well. what kind of amnesia do they have to have? the 3rd ancillary motive command i am not a russian expert. it seems to me that one of the things we have been witnessing is a kind of international arms show designed basically sell weapons. the russians had to eat and $8 billion bill in the government in a rack went down. the syrians of them foreign have to $5 billion but more important the russians have sold the iranians the air defense system. the order of battle is basically useless.
elliott something along the order of a hundred billion in cash. where will they get it? we are not going to sell it to them. the only place they can go is russia. it is possible that they will decide if only for the cause of interoperability with iran to purchase a new russian conventional order of battle and add up numbers , you're talking about grocery money, looking out over ten years. that may not sound like a lot of money to the united states but in russia with the military-industrial complex being plugged in, that's a lot of money. two sets of three motives that i think explain with the russians are doing. the problem is it is easy to list motives. the problem is
to assign what the priorities are in the minds of the decision-makers in moscow and then to say how these various motives interact. we don't have any hard evidence about how that works. i would defer to the russian experts to counsel. last comment. what does this mean for the united states? just let me say briefly, if you think about the problems long enough you come to the following. asia is a problem. people can argue but after what has happened the last couple of weeks it is dangerous. there is a lot of discomfort that the policy right now that the united states is pursuing is not adequate in terms of likely consequences for urgency to have the the problem.
you have to go after these guys on the ground. airpower alone does not work. who will supply forces on the ground? there has been a change in the polls the last couple of weeks. more americans are willing to send large number of forces than i thought and probably for the wrong reason but i don't think president obama is slated. political efficacy, looking for allies on the ground. market pointed this out, it is not anyone's 1st priority. it is impossible to assemble a local coalition's main target is the destruction of the age. however, it is not impossible in my view to construct a coalition's target is the aside regime which brings us back to
where we should have started in the 1st place. the regime is the problem. thethe russians on the problem in helping them in the iranians are as well. the real danger in the region is an emanation of the problem. that is the larger strategic problem to my view. this puts us at loggerheads. our interest would be to displace and physically by re- caulking the battlefield so that diplomacy can produce the kind of outcome we desire. that's how i see it. if the united states decided to create a humanitarian zone my preference was at the turkish soldiers but no one paid any attention to me
obviously. if we had done that we would have been they're 1st. the opposition would have a chunk of syrian real estate against which to trade for influence over a political solution to the syrian civil war. the russians are they're 1st. suggestions we create a no-fly zone over a standoff weapons to attack the regime or degrade the regime or suggestions we create aa humanitarian keep out zone right into the fact that the russians are already there and raises the possibility of a clash between american and russian forces in syria. that is what comes from not using force judiciously and allowing it to fester so that this gets worse. >> wonderful. what i am going to try and
do his complement what adam said and what i heard from the 1st panel as well. i want to put into a larger context the issue of what is driving the russians and how we should respond. if you back to 1971 from the standpoint of in 1971 oh problem anywhere in the world could be resolved without the soviet union. vladimir would like to create that is a reality for russia. in 1971 we did not view it positively. supposed to regulate and make competition predictable. is it a good idea to put? maybe we can discuss that in the panel. i would like to say on the issue of terrorism and i
heard this little bit, he said a lot of the right things. going back to 2,001 he said the right things. we agreed on the same enemy. if you listen to what he said at the un what he said later in october, what he said in his december 3 presidential address the essence of what he said was we need to grant alliance forget about our differences and come up with a common front. we cannot differentiate between moderate and a moderate terrorists. we half to basically not have a double standard and should not be dealing with terrorist groupings. all those things sound good. in the december 3 address most of us were directed against turkey and when he talks about modern terrorists it is getting at us but it is fair to say
that it is not consistent with his own behavior. who is he partnering with? he is partnering with the revolutionary guard forces, has blah. these are two organizations it isis fair to say who have made terrorism a fundamental instrument. in the case of has blah it is fair to say that they invented the idea of suicide bombing. he has no problem being a partner with them and no problem providing air cover for what they're doing on the ground. that begins to raise questions about whether or not we can be partners when it comes to terror but it does not address the question of whether or not we can elaborate on syria. we should be -- there is no answer unless we are all they're and it is clear the president and secretary
kerry also believe that. but what is interesting is they sound a little different. the objective is the same, but they are different in terms of expectation. the president was confident that eventually he would come around, take some time but he will come around because of the logic of quagmire. the cost will be too high which will produce a change so that he will not support the same way and decide that he has to go after isys as opposed to where most of the attacks are coming today. kerry is much more enthusiastic. when you look at what he said in the aftermath of the vienna conference he said we agree on the same principles the secretary said we may
not see eye to eye on every aspect of the syrian policy but we want the same outcome we see the same challenges. they both want to go after this group. you know, that obviously creates potential, at least the administration and i really wish and hope that they are right. like you said, i want them to be right. i am afraid that they are wrong. i hope i am wrong. i say that because i look at the pattern of behavior over time. i ami am afraid the approach in syria is very much a zero-sum approach. i am afraid it is still very much one of backing the regime. you know, what you described
i accept. it is no secret that he wants to preserve the military presence and access they have had. he wants to be an arbiter of any outcome in syria. he wants to parlay being an arbiter in syria into being seen as the key arbiter in the region as a whole and the fact that you look at who has been going to moscow and he looks increasingly like he is succeeding at that command there has been a constant message as opposed to a zero-sum notion the message from the russians has been, and, and i have heard this constantly from my friends throughout the arab world, the russians are saying you may not like our support but we stand by our friends. that is part of what i think the approach has been. if you look diplomatically
they supported the geneva principles but in december of 2013 in january 2014 a completely backed a sod. and the military intervention is following the logic of what you might imagine. it is designed to change the balance of power. so all of this suggests that when you look at what they are actually doing it is unfortunate that the day he was in moscow was the day we had the stories that she was quoting from the un officials responsible for providing humanitarian
assistance. the russians are carrying out a set of attacks not just going after the non- isys opposition the trying to depopulate areas, deliberately making it harder for humanitarian assistance, attacking hospitals, attacking grain silos, attacking water treatment plants, and all of this again is part of a fundamental approach designed to produce an interesting reality. they want ironically a posture that is similar to what a sod wants and what isys wants as well, polarization. they wanted to mobilize. a sod wants it to mobilize the world. and it is clear that is what i think putin wants.wants. maybe he can change of the costs go up high enough.
i come to what will be the last set of comments. first, again, the administration could be right and i can bei could be wrong and the proof of that we can and should see soon. the proof of it is what happens with ian. the issue is not whether or not a sod is at the table. i am going to expand a little bit. they enforce a real cease-fire? listen to secretary kerry. we will see a huge change in the cease-fire. if we see a cease-fire, real cease-fire, real cease-fire which only the russians can impose, only the russians
have the leverage to impose. if there is a real cease-fire and if they go along with the creation of humanitarian core doors to provide humanitarian assistance, if that takes place vienna becomes real. if that takes place the opposition will have no other reason to believe that there could be a transition. right now they don't believe it and have no particular reason to believe it. what i was just saying about the assessment would be wrong, and i hope that is the case. it will be better for everybody. now, if it turns out that i am not wrong that does not mean you necessarily have to give up on the idea of trying to still push the vienna process, but it means we approach the vienna process and prudent you have
to put not with the logic of argument but with the logic of leverage which is actually the logic that putin understands. in the logic of leverage would have us to the following, have us go and say comeau we are deep believer'sbelievers in the vienna process. we have committed to it unmistakably but it cannot work unless there is a cease-fire. so if this fails you leave us no choice but to support safe haven. the administration has been reluctant because it requires us to do something command you are right. the administration should look at having invested so much and the court our strategy is not only ratcheting up because we have a contradiction. we send them out.
there is no chance to bring the men. so long as we were ratcheting up and they continue to hammer the opposition meaning that for them to join us your part of the onslaught and they won't do it. if you have a safe haven which deals with part of the issue you create an area you could have leverage of the opposition and in this sense the sunnis are seeing the something is done to stop the onslaught and he change the circumstance. the administration understands the logic of its own position, if you want to be successful in these to
the interesting thing, with the turks clamoring for it, go states requiring it it gives us leverage. we will do it providing you europeans will provide forces, provide the money monies to build the infrastructure with the safe haven, provide forces on the ground to police the safe haven and it goes through one channel so that we can build leverage on the opposition so that the opposition itself becomes more coherent. there are ways to proceed where we have the potential for leverage. >> you are 1st up. >> i am supposed to be brief
i will make four or five quick comments and maybe for the 1st time in the session actually maybe disagree with a couple of comments that have been made. on the issue of motives i largely agree with what has been said. i would only have a couple of emacs. i think i had a little bit of a problem with an assist talk about prudent and russia wanting to be a global arbiter. russia and prudent at this stage and for the foreseeable future is not going to be a global arbiter russia as we have seen in recent years is going to
have a more robust policy, project power and in the neighborhood and certain circumstances and take advantage of opportunities like the one offered by the syrian civil war but i do not see the economic political and even domestic grounds in russia, the reemergence of a kind of global superpower in the form of russia. secondly, i also am a little bit skeptical of motive of somehow russia taking this action and syria as a way of destabilizing the eu through migration. the one country arguably that has been perhaps most destabilized and politically affected by the salt -- flows of immigrants is germany, almost a million
migrants in germany today. from germany to come a critical country in terms of his strategy, working and trying to deal with the european union. i have not heard one german leader express that concern. it is highly unlikely and i do not think it is credible to suggest that he is trying to find ten politics and western europe by creating chaos in syria. but i will make a point about ukraine. the point that have been made this morning about his thinking in ukraine and western sanctions and syrian intervention are absolutely right.
i do think that russian intervention in syria had a catalytic impact in terms of not only diplomacy and force in syria but a change the debate in europe command it is interesting as i was discussing that françois along after he visited washington following the terrorist attacks there went immediately to moscow and sat down with. the fact that we are thinking now about how the russians might be folded into some kind of diplomatic solution and process makes it enormously difficult for the europeans to continue to justify sanctions policies against the europeans, particularly in a moment when the sanctions have in this portion of impact on the europeans. and when it is hard to justify new projects like
north stream to and at the same time keeping sanctions in place on russia. i am not predicting an early change in this policy, but it demonstrates that he is trying to seek somehow to just purely public diplomacy and play a constructive role in the syrian exercise the sanctions policy, european eu sanctions are going to be vulnerable. the 2nd point i would say is simply that i think that if you compare us and russian policy to the syrian situation that what prudent has done has created a much easier task for himself than
us foreign policy has created for itself. he is supporting a sod and he is demonstrating to the region and elsewhere that he will stick with his guy and he will be a loyal friend and ally. we on the other hand not only want the ouster of the sod but we wanted a process which is enormously difficult to define, to implement that will lead to the end of fighting, human rights abuses and some type of settlement that takes all the interest of the disparate groups in syria into account. and judgment of a lot of people including myself that is very unlikely in the near-term. we have got asymmetrical, not just a symmetrical interests but certainly
asymmetrical goals which needs to be taken into account as we think about what they are trying to do and what we are trying to do. i think that -- i think that the issue of russian -- the interaction of russian ground forces in syria and large numbers could change the scope of the conflict and actually defeat isys. in my judgment it is unlikely. already to some extent been burned by his intervention there not to mention shoot down of the airliner in egypt, the loss of the tangle he had with the turks and the loss of the plane and pilot and the cost of
all grow in terms of this turkish russian dispute. i cannot think of two more thin-skinned narcissistic international leaders than vladimir putin addressing and one. >> how do you feel? >> we could add donald trump. >> he is not yet president. >> thinking about how this thing could go tells me that i think the russians are running big risks and i doubt very seriously that putin would take the step to introduce substantial numbers of ground forces. more interesting question is to think about, is there likely a convergence of us and russian diplomatic strategy and the vienna process?
and this is largely in part going to revolve around whether there is a deal on the sod. he already see a slight movement. kerry seems to be backing off of the idea that a soda sod would necessarily have to go at the outset. the russians are hinting that he would not have to be around at the completion of some kind of deal. their seems to be some kind of progress there. that said, it is not an issue of whether is playing a zero sum game. the big mistake we could make is to think that somehow the united states and russia even if they were to reach agreement could drive an overall settlement. first of all, there are the other regional powers that
will have a lot to say, in some cases more to say that perhaps either the united states or russia including turkey, iran, and saudi arabia. and then there are the groups on the ground again enormously complex including isys. one thing that i don't think is adequately fleshed out in today's discussion, i am in the camp of those who argue that what we are seeing in syria and iraq is part of a bigger almost 30 years war. two critical elements to it. one is geopolitical which is a contest, if you will between saudi arabia and iran. two, it is sectarian.
sunni and shia. that creates -- that creates a dynamic that makes it more barbaric and complicated. and so what i am suggesting, and this is where i have to come back with dennis and his creation of a save zone, i don't think ideas like humanitarian core doors or safe zones work without a strong ground partner command we have failed to combine the restaurant ground partner is. we can talk about getting the turks and there but we already recognize this morning that the turks major interest is not isys. it is protecting there
turkmen and dealing with the kurdish issue. it is not the turks. we are not -- the kurds are great when they are defending their committee and region. you cannot expect the kurds to go into the arab zones and fight isys. we are left with the problem of the sunnis in syria and iraq, and without a strong ground partner we are not going to be able to deal with isys. in the end, in the end even us russian convergence is not going to address this problem, and if i am correct we are seeing that kind of 30 years will work itself out. i do not think either the united states alone or together will solve this problem. >> thank you for this provocative comments.
>> thank you and thank you for having me here. russian objectives in syria have been mentioned and i can only concur. the 1st objective is upholding the aside regime. showing washington the middle finger, two birds with one stone, but there are more other ambitious goals as a tool to build the coalition and based upon this coalition the new world order. the new world order visiting any kind of revolution
coalition. second and i have a coalition to. solve ukrainian problem, eliminate anti- russian sanctions more or less as our problems are solved. the top again, high risk gamble but these calculations seem increasingly irrelevant. after november 4 when the bomber was shot down by the turkish fighter. today we are in a very different situation. we are on the brink of armed confrontation, regional confrontation between turkey and russia. turkish and russian forces
and turkey and russia are on a collision course. there is a bombing campaign, and under the bombing campaign and with the support has block on the militias and others are pressing ground defenses and they are moderately successful, increasingly ordinances being used including bombs delivered by air and by the rocket launch system and some has already happened just on the turkish syrian border.
the fighting will move closer to the turkish border. they are going to fall on turkish territory. that is inevitable. and the russian military are given orders to shoot 1st and shoot to kill. destroy any target that potentially can threaten you. they want to level the score and maybe see a turkish plane down. if nothing will be done there is a higha high probability that they will do more which will eventually transform and escalate into a local conventional war. they greatest problem with that is conventionally in that part of the world turkey is stronger than russia. on the ground absolutely.
on the sea also, air most likely which would mean that russia and russian forces could suffer humiliating losses which means that the conflict may escalate further to the black sea. it is a very big thing. and just conventional cruise missiles which also should be taken into account, the russian operational plan or russia will be conventionally weaker and russia is conventionally weaker, they are going to go nuclear.
limited tactical nuclear attacks. and just days ago putin said these cruise missiles and audible and we are right now in a situation that may be even more dangerous. we could see devcon going up again if nothing is being done. returning to 73 we should understand right now tactics to have diplomacy between moscow to stop the media problems. it would give the
possibility that they will not be pushed out because politically for the turkish military ethnic cleansing of ethnic turks on the foreign territory, they can believe that they have to go. and for russia is important because it is too close. and so from there if we leave that in the hands of unpredictable revels they could launch a ground attack on the russian base. there is not enough strategic sense. you have to find a way of a compromise. ahead on russian turkish collision. right now i am afraid they
and the targets on the ground with the high value individuals and they used to travel in a convoy now they travel with their family. so the russians are much more liberal with their rules of engagement and probably at least with the time being to crush the enemy. it is indispensable for iran and russia.
and the russian intervention has been notably in effective. it has been taken back. li 4% of syrian territory. because they will not do that. that is the dilemma another three or 12 months. said it will stir to be on the defensive again. that is why they begin to see the least negative with those equally nice if those
are changing. so you have europeans diplomats suggesting that buying the same token we see a clear movement to the american position he does not have to leave right away. and then to reach out with the extremist groups on the ground. they also want to use their role in syria to persuade the europeans that did not happen in new jersey your raid the europeans made that
>> i am the european union's senior fellow at brookings. but that speculation all of the ukraine sanctions. i understand the concern that sanctions were rolled over for another six months. so it may come up again somebody said day are wobbling and analytically if you look at the russian involvement bin is that a
less than an atom possibilities with less bandwidth? and of the chicken peaceably increase their commitment but that is my comment in by the way with the refugee question i have heard some conspiracy theories by design but they'll look at the refugee situation it is the objective factor. in if the turks did look the other way it was the set of circumstances to put
pressure with those negotiations with the islamic state group in the in fact, to have that iraqi representative of the panel because as we have racket -- recognized with one regionalize conflict it is difficult to resolve this issue with syria in isolation. with the russian attention and motivation and what are those russian intentions and
with that policy with of refugees. we need that is far fetched. but i will reserve my judgment until the truth if it ever spills out. but vladimir putin seems to be a textbook example. and was raised to believe these are radical and high style to russia. i also think if they would go the way of history as we have seen in poland and hungary in the czech republic it makes it easier
to deal with the member states one on one as a strong confederate you did. we will see on that point with the conspiracy period is an empirical matter. i read those stories i am mindful of them i don't know if they are true but i don't know if they are false either. the last thing i want to say with that force that is useful on the ground. and the policy is embedded in a way that is as stupid dangerous war idiom and.
and what tipped them off but would is very dangerous and stupid to look first toward assad than daesh it is possible. they want to do more to support its demand to wages and so this will reopen the womb to -- the wound with this saudi forces bombing as yet been tries to retake azerbaijani. wouldn't that be interesting? with turkey there has been a focal point of administration to get the
turks to do much more it is not as porous as it has been. into have 2.2 billion syrian refugees and more is more is driven isis driven. not kurdish. if you look at turkish behavior you have seen a much more systematic efforts but therein is that potential to affect the behavior. and to create some kind of safe zone fidelity
administration will not go for that. to resist every step of the way. and it wasn't the interpretation the president's reluctance to be drawn into the conflict is as powerful as it has ever ben. and we never had a serious discussion those that were left to oppose it were never prepared to revisit and they never admitted what was wrong with that. they made that the analogy
it and end expect that putin will do this but to have a diplomatic process it will create the illusion we're trying to do something. to go back to say that assad must go. that they don't fit those objectives. and what has gone so far is the credibility. >> a couple of brief points i am glad he brought up the war in yemen because it crystallizes the point that i made her earlier of the the 30 year war aspect big
next year sitting in this conference room to discuss the strategic implications that underscores the problems we are addressing. i think maybe it was dennis talking about 1991. with that first bush administration to create a global coalition and in thinking about the region as a whole was a foreign army in the adjacent states in and the international committee realizes this was
so wide that should not be crossed. and we responded with a spectacular success. but talk about a grand coalition to fight isis with that conflict in both syria and anti-iraq and yemen libya us to use state that you said this that we could create such coalition to fight in these the eternal conflicts is a huge mistake and it is a terrible dilemma. if you intervene in these countries with the sectarian conflict you create of vacuum and get chaos.
but if you don't you're the occupying power if you don't have an rb that is the era of the pudding is russian, american, european how long will you be welcome there? that is what we should do in syria. >> with the possible ground intervention it is impossible. said geographical political problem and then with that
support for your troops. and right now they are increasingly insecure. and having an air base in right now is very much a problem. if you have to move thousands and thousands of equipment to have one full-scale base. but having more is not practical. and russian policy in the middle east it is sunflowerseed and it was not
put the taliban was there before the arak war. -- iraq war but please remember one thing. i cannot get tired of repeating it the most peaceful community on earth was this to the community very peaceful. because of the messenger. what happened to them and what happened to this community? all over the world of the afghanistan and pakistan?